iPhoto by Apple icon

iPhoto ($4.99) by Apple is finally here for your iOS device. About time, right?

Personally, I would have preferred if this app was free and came with the iOS 5.1 update that came out yesterday, possibly replacing Photos. But I digress.

The app itself can be described as “beautiful,” if you like the whole skeuomorphic thing that Apple has been doing, like with Calendar, Address Book, Game Center, and others. In the case of iPhoto for iOS, it’s the classic photo-albums-on-shelves metaphor that Apple is going for — sea foam green glass shelves that hold your leather-bound photo albums. If you ask me, it looks a bit…tacky. But I simply hate skeuomorphism with a passion.

iPhoto by Apple screenshot

The app is divided up into four main areas: Albums, Photos, Events, and Journals. There is also the Settings area, where you can toggle Wireless Beaming (send and receive photos from other iOS devices with iPhoto), Photo Location, Location Lookup, Sound Effects, and AirPlay Mirroring on your TV. A Help guide is there too, should you need it.

The difference between Albums and Photos is that Albums will show you all of your various albums from Photos.app, while the Photos view will just dump all images on your device into a grid view. Events can be viewed too, if you have them synced on from iTunes.

The biggest issue I had with the app is the fact that I don’t get a grid view in the Albums. Instead, I am forced to scroll through an endless “ribbon” of my photos on the bottom of the screen – I have almost 2,000 photos on my Camera Roll, so this is far from inherent. The least that Apple could have done was implement a grid view, like the one found in the Photos view, to make it easier to navigate and look for a certain image.

I did appreciate that I was able to view information on a photo, though. You can view an individual image’s metadata (date and time taken, location, resolution, size, and EXIF data) and caption (editable), view it on the non-Google map, and comments (if it was uploaded on Facebook or Flickr).

As far as editing photos goes, iPhoto comes with some powerful features, and you can even compare the edited image to the original. However, the overall process of editing was just unintuitive, at least compared to all the third party options out there. You first have to find the photo, tap the “Edit” button, and then navigate through some buttons. There’s the “Auto-Enhance” feature that will enhance your photo in one tap, though this is also the same thing that is built into the native Photos app (duplicating much, Apple?).

Of course, you can do more advanced editing, such as: cropping, exposure levels (contrast, brightness, saturation), and color. Then there are the brushes – oh god, the brushes.

I have to admit, Apple has taken skeuomorphism to the next level here. When you tap on the brushes (for those basic photo editing features such as Repair, Red Eye, Saturate, Desaturate, Lighten, Darken, Sharpen, and Soften), you get actual brushes!

Think of going to Home Depot, or an art store – Apple decided to put actual images of brushes to show you every time when you pick a brush! What is this, an art class? I’m here to edit my photos, not look at fancy brushes that have no effect other than looking pretty. The skeuomorphism has gone too far here, and the animation it takes to “reveal” the brushes to you makes it longer to edit your photos.

iPhoto by Apple screenshot

If you want to take the lazy way out of things, you can always apply some Instagram-like filters to your photos. Of course, this brings up another skeuomorphic element, which reminds me of paint swatches at Home Depot. Seriously? The strips element is laughable, and not to mention that you can hardly see how the filter looks.

Of course, since iPhoto does not run on an iPad 1 (which I currently have until my new iPad next week), I had to use the app on my iPhone 4S, so that’s why I am disappointed with how small the thumbnails are.

It also allows you to Flag photos, as well as mark some as Favorites, similar to what you can do in the Mac version of iPhoto. Doing this will create “Smart Albums” with the marked photos in them. Additionally, there is the ability to “hide” a photo from iPhoto for iOS, though it does not actually delete it from your device. To top it off, I was unable to figure out a way to “unhide” a photo if you exit out of the view and return to it (you can unhide it immediately after hiding it). Personally, I found it confusing and ultimately unintuitive.

A neat little feature of iPhoto for iOS is the Journal feature. You can create these by selecting the photos you want (though the process of selecting multiple photos is not simple at all), giving it a name, and choosing how you want it to appear. Journals will have your photos placed on your choice of skeuomorphic linen or denim backgrounds, or you can just have a huge mosaic. These aren’t a huge deal, unless you plan to show them off to your friends and family (“Check it out! Isn’t it fancy?”).

Any photo you edit in iPhoto can be shared to several options. You can send them off to a Journal, export to Camera Roll, iTunes File Sharing, email, or print them. They can be pushed to your favorite social networks, like Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. They can be shown off in a slideshow. Perhaps the best feature here, though, is the Beam — you can wirelessly transmit any photo from iPhoto to another device, as long as iPhoto is installed on it as well. It’s pretty neat, and definitely reminds me of PhotoSync‘s transfer feature.

I was definitely excited when iPhoto was announced yesterday, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with it. I spent more time actually trying to figure out how to edit photos rather than editing them, which was definitely not the case with other apps, such as Snapseed, Photogene, and PhotoForge. It also is annoying that this does not replace Photos, even though some functionality is duplicated (Auto-Enhance).

I think I will stick with my other photo apps for the time being. Nice try, Apple, but let’s work on making it more intuitive and getting rid of that absurd skeuomorphism, okay?